On April 23, 1960, a new portion of Interstate 20 (I-20) in the northern region of Louisiana was officially opened to traffic. The portion of that east-west route being inaugurated on that Saturday was a 9.7-mile (15.6-kilometer) segment between the city of Ruston and village of Choudrant. This segment was the longest stretch of Louisiana’s share of the Interstate Highway System to make its debut up to that time.
In their coverage of the opening ceremonies for the Ruston-Choudrant link, several Louisiana newspapers also focused on the high expectations for I-20 when that entire route would finally be completed across the Bayou State. The Shreveport-based Times newspaper declared I-20 to be one of the state’s “Highways of the Future,” for example.
The Monroe Morning World summarized the inaugural festivities for the newest section of I-20 in Louisiana by noting, “It was a perfect day for the ribbon-snipping, attended by several hundred people, including federal, state, parish and city officials. And a large delegation of the press attended.” Wayne Huckaby, district highway engineer for the Louisiana Highway Department (now part of the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development), presided over both ceremonies.
The first ceremony, which took place at the east end of the new segment at Choudrant, was less than 200 yards (182.9 meters) from where ground had been broken for the start of this highway construction project in 1958. Those speaking at the ceremony included Earl Williamson, a district commissioner of the Louisiana Highway Department (LHD); James T. Folk, president of the Louisiana chapter of Associated General Contractors; and Huckaby.
The ribbon-cutting part of this event was jointly performed by John P. Kelley, LHD’s superintendent of construction; Aubrey Braddock, the LHD project engineer who oversaw the building of the segment; and his secretary Willie Mae Wroten, who managed to carry out her ceremonial duties despite being on crutches. Another highlight of this ceremony involved having J.L. Logan, district engineer of the U.S. Bureau of Public Roads (a predecessor of the Federal Highway Administration), unveil an Interstate shield created specifically for I-20. The Ruston-Choudrant portion of I-20 became the first link of the Interstate Highway System in Louisiana to have those red, white, and blue signs.
Following these dedication activities at Choudrant, public officials and several other attendees traveled in a motorcade to the new segment’s western end at Ruston for another ceremony. Those speaking at that event included T.C. Beasley, mayor of Ruston; and J. Allan Norris, mayor of the nearby city of West Monroe.
I-20 in Louisiana now covers a total of 189.9 miles (305.6 kilometers) across the state and between its boundaries with Mississippi to the east and Texas to the west. (The above photo shows the western end of Louisiana’s section of I-20.) In its entirety, I-20 spans 1,539.4 miles (2,477 kilometers) between Reeves County in Texas and the city of Florence, South Carolina.
Photo Credit: formulaone (licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license at https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/deed.en)
For more information on Interstate 20 in Louisiana, please check out https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Interstate_20_in_Louisiana
Thank you for this post. I came upon it, while trying to determine which year the Trenton St. exit on I-20 (south side) in Ruston was widened (sometime in the mid- to late 60s). Sadly, that widening required the destruction of a giant and magificent holly tree that my great-grandfather Walter Shields Davis had planted. I believe that there was a campaign at the time to save the holly, but it was in vain. I was around 7 or 8 years old. My grandmother Inez Conger drove me over to the tree from Arcadia, so that we could take cuttings to root back in her garden. We were successful in rooting the cuttings, but a few years later, an unseasonable frost killed them all. So, no descendant of “The Davis Holly” exists. How in the world would I find the year of that tragic event? Thanks, Lee Conger